First of a four-part series on college athletes in various stages of their COVID-delayed careers waiting on their next move.
We’ve all been living in some kind of limbo because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Ryan Daly, who starred on the basketball court last season for St. Joseph’s, has it perfected. Is he a college player? He’s certainly a basketball player. But at what stage of his career? Even Daly doesn’t know right now.
He’s declared for the NBA draft. But what does that mean? He could play overseas. Or could he? He could go back to college for one last season. Will there be a season?
“I’m still undecided what I’ll be planning on doing,” Daly said last week.
And what has his personal limbo been like? Holed up in his Havertown home with his parents, brother, and sister.
“For the first month-and-a-half, I was a caged animal,” Daly said. “I was probably the most annoying person, not only in Delaware County but in the state.”
His younger sister could testify.
“I would just mess with her,” Daly said. “Take her drink and hide it when she went to get a napkin. Little things.”
Make something fall on her head when she opened her bedroom door. So no need for her to testify. Ryan incriminated himself.
“My mom laid down the law,” Daly said.
He does have a basketball court outside, and a brother who plays for West Chester, so that was all helpful. They also hung a heavy bag from the basket, a way to both stay in shape and release some anger about this life in limbo.
Daly knows that declaring for the NBA draft wasn’t really optimal in 2020, since there were no team workouts for prospects, no chance to maybe prove he belonged on a summer league team. There was no summer league.
“There’s more things they’re worried about, in terms of actually having a season,” Daly said of NBA teams. He knew he wasn’t a front-burner item for any team. “I wouldn’t expect to be a first-round pick.”
He is trying to make an informed decision. Returning for a final season on Hawk Hill is “a great option” in his mind. “Coming back is definitely a possibility,” said Daly, a 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 20.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists last season.
The new deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft is Aug. 3, and Daly doesn’t expect to wait that long to make a decision. Being a pro, in this country or another, is the ultimate goal.
“It would help if I knew what college basketball would be like,” Daly said. “Getting paid to play basketball, or going back to my favorite place on earth, both options are pretty good.”
When it became feasible to get outside, Daly also figured out that he could put a couple of dollars in his pocket by going to driveways and working out younger guys on ball handling, shooting form, coming off ball screens. His mother had put something up on Facebook and he got a few takers. He checked with the compliance department at St. Joe’s, Daly said, and was told he could do it but couldn’t use the school’s facilities, and everyone had to be charged the same fee.
He’s also gotten back into some gyms for high-level pickup games, featuring many of the top local current and former college players. His goal is simple: not to be that guy hurting the most when full workouts eventually begin.
“I don’t want to be an odd man out,” Daly said.
A weird existence, these months of “still undecided.” At least those pickup games have restored some sanity.